Git Fileserver Backend Walkthrough


This walkthrough assumes basic knowledge of Salt. To get up to speed, check out the Salt Walkthrough.

The gitfs backend allows Salt to serve files from git repositories. It can be enabled by adding git to the fileserver_backend list, and configuring one or more repositories in gitfs_remotes.

Branches and tags become Salt fileserver environments.


Branching and tagging can result in a lot of potentially-conflicting top files, for this reason it may be useful to set top_file_merging_strategy to same in the minions' config files if the top files are being managed in a GitFS repo.

Installing Dependencies

Beginning with version 2014.7.0, both pygit2 and Dulwich are supported as alternatives to GitPython. The desired provider can be configured using the gitfs_provider parameter in the master config file.

If gitfs_provider is not configured, then Salt will prefer pygit2 if a suitable version is available, followed by GitPython and Dulwich.


It is recommended to always run the most recent version of any the below dependencies. Certain features of gitfs may not be available without the most recent version of the chosen library.


The minimum supported version of pygit2 is 0.20.3. Availability for this version of pygit2 is still limited, though the SaltStack team is working to get compatible versions available for as many platforms as possible.

For the Fedora/EPEL versions which have a new enough version packaged, the following command would be used to install pygit2:

# yum install python-pygit2

Provided a valid version is packaged for Debian/Ubuntu (which is not currently the case), the package name would be the same, and the following command would be used to install it:

# apt-get install python-pygit2

If pygit2 is not packaged for the platform on which the Master is running, the pygit2 website has installation instructions here. Keep in mind however that following these instructions will install libgit2 and pygit2 without system packages. Additionally, keep in mind that SSH authentication in pygit2 requires libssh2 (not libssh) development libraries to be present before libgit2 is built. On some Debian-based distros pkg-config is also required to link libgit2 with libssh2.

Additionally, version 0.21.0 of pygit2 introduced a dependency on python-cffi, which in turn depends on newer releases of libffi. Upgrading libffi is not advisable as several other applications depend on it, so on older LTS linux releases pygit2 0.20.3 and libgit2 0.20.0 is the recommended combination.


pygit2 is actively developed and frequently makes non-backwards-compatible API changes, even in minor releases. It is not uncommon for pygit2 upgrades to result in errors in Salt. Please take care when upgrading pygit2, and pay close attention to the changelog, keeping an eye out for API changes. Errors can be reported on the SaltStack issue tracker.

RedHat Pygit2 Issues

The release of RedHat/CentOS 7.3 upgraded both python-cffi and http-parser, both of which are dependencies for pygit2/libgit2. Both pygit2 and libgit2 (which are from the EPEL repository and not managed directly by RedHat) need to be rebuilt against these updated dependencies.

The below errors will show up in the master log if an incompatible python-pygit2 package is installed:

2017-02-10 09:07:34,892 [salt.utils.gitfs ][ERROR ][11211] Import pygit2 failed: CompileError: command 'gcc' failed with exit status 1
2017-02-10 09:07:34,907 [salt.utils.gitfs ][ERROR ][11211] gitfs is configured but could not be loaded, are pygit2 and libgit2 installed?
2017-02-10 09:07:34,907 [salt.utils.gitfs ][CRITICAL][11211] No suitable gitfs provider module is installed.
2017-02-10 09:07:34,912 [salt.master ][CRITICAL][11211] Master failed pre flight checks, exiting

The below errors will show up in the master log if an incompatible libgit2 package is installed:

2017-02-15 18:04:45,211 [salt.utils.gitfs ][ERROR   ][6211] Error occurred fetching gitfs remote '': No Content-Type header in response

As of 15 February 2017, python-pygit2 has been rebuilt and is in the stable EPEL repository. However, libgit2 remains broken (a bug report has been filed to get it rebuilt).

In the meantime, you can work around this by downgrading http-parser. To do this, go to this page and download the appropriate http-parser RPM for the OS architecture you are using (x86_64, etc.). Then downgrade using the rpm command. For example:

[root@784e8a8c5028 /]# curl --silent -O
[root@784e8a8c5028 /]# rpm -Uvh --oldpackage http-parser-2.0-5.20121128gitcd01361.el7.x86_64.rpm
Preparing...                          ################################# [100%]
Updating / installing...
   1:http-parser-2.0-5.20121128gitcd01################################# [ 50%]
Cleaning up / removing...
   2:http-parser-2.7.1-3.el7          ################################# [100%]

A restart of the salt-master daemon may be required to allow http(s) repositories to continue to be fetched.


GitPython 0.3.0 or newer is required to use GitPython for gitfs. For RHEL-based Linux distros, a compatible version is available in EPEL, and can be easily installed on the master using yum:

# yum install GitPython

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and Debian Wheezy (7.x) also have a compatible version packaged:

# apt-get install python-git

If your master is running an older version (such as Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or Debian Squeeze), then you will need to install GitPython using either pip or easy_install (it is recommended to use pip). Version 0.3.2.RC1 is now marked as the stable release in PyPI, so it should be a simple matter of running pip install GitPython (or easy_install GitPython) as root.


Keep in mind that if GitPython has been previously installed on the master using pip (even if it was subsequently uninstalled), then it may still exist in the build cache (typically /tmp/pip-build-root/GitPython) if the cache is not cleared after installation. The package in the build cache will override any requirement specifiers, so if you try upgrading to version 0.3.2.RC1 by running pip install 'GitPython==0.3.2.RC1' then it will ignore this and simply install the version from the cache directory. Therefore, it may be necessary to delete the GitPython directory from the build cache in order to ensure that the specified version is installed.


GitPython 2.0.9 and newer is not compatible with Python 2.6. If installing GitPython using pip on a machine running Python 2.6, make sure that a version earlier than 2.0.9 is installed. This can be done on the CLI by running pip install 'GitPython<2.0.9', or in a pip.installed state using the following SLS:

    - name: 'GitPython < 2.0.9'


Dulwich 0.9.4 or newer is required to use Dulwich as backend for gitfs.

Dulwich is available in EPEL, and can be easily installed on the master using yum:

# yum install python-dulwich

For APT-based distros such as Ubuntu and Debian:

# apt-get install python-dulwich


If switching to Dulwich from GitPython/pygit2, or switching from GitPython/pygit2 to Dulwich, it is necessary to clear the gitfs cache to avoid unpredictable behavior. This is probably a good idea whenever switching to a new gitfs_provider, but it is less important when switching between GitPython and pygit2.

Beginning in version 2015.5.0, the gitfs cache can be easily cleared using the fileserver.clear_cache runner.

salt-run fileserver.clear_cache backend=git

If the Master is running an earlier version, then the cache can be cleared by removing the gitfs and file_lists/gitfs directories (both paths relative to the master cache directory, usually /var/cache/salt/master).

rm -rf /var/cache/salt/master{,/file_lists}/gitfs

Simple Configuration

To use the gitfs backend, only two configuration changes are required on the master:

  1. Include git in the fileserver_backend list in the master config file:

      - git
  2. Specify one or more git://, https://, file://, or ssh:// URLs in gitfs_remotes to configure which repositories to cache and search for requested files:


    SSH remotes can also be configured using scp-like syntax:

      - ssh://user@domain.tld/path/to/repo.git

    Information on how to authenticate to SSH remotes can be found here.


    Dulwich does not recognize ssh:// URLs, git+ssh:// must be used instead. Salt version 2015.5.0 and later will automatically add the git+ to the beginning of these URLs before fetching, but earlier Salt versions will fail to fetch unless the URL is specified using git+ssh://.

  3. Restart the master to load the new configuration.


In a master/minion setup, files from a gitfs remote are cached once by the master, so minions do not need direct access to the git repository.

Multiple Remotes

The gitfs_remotes option accepts an ordered list of git remotes to cache and search, in listed order, for requested files.

A simple scenario illustrates this cascading lookup behavior:

If the gitfs_remotes option specifies three remotes:

  - git://
  - file:///root/third

And each repository contains some files:




Salt will attempt to lookup the requested file from each gitfs remote repository in the order in which they are defined in the configuration. The git:// remote will be searched first. If the requested file is found, then it is served and no further searching is executed. For example:

  • A request for the file salt://haproxy/init.sls will be served from the git repo.
  • A request for the file salt://haproxy/haproxy.conf will be served from the file:///root/third repo.


This example is purposefully contrived to illustrate the behavior of the gitfs backend. This example should not be read as a recommended way to lay out files and git repos.

The file:// prefix denotes a git repository in a local directory. However, it will still use the given file:// URL as a remote, rather than copying the git repo to the salt cache. This means that any refs you want accessible must exist as local refs in the specified repo.


Salt versions prior to 2014.1.0 are not tolerant of changing the order of remotes or modifying the URI of existing remotes. In those versions, when modifying remotes it is a good idea to remove the gitfs cache directory (/var/cache/salt/master/gitfs) before restarting the salt-master service.

Per-remote Configuration Parameters

New in version 2014.7.0.

The following master config parameters are global (that is, they apply to all configured gitfs remotes):

These parameters can now be overridden on a per-remote basis. This allows for a tremendous amount of customization. Here's some example usage:

gitfs_provider: pygit2
gitfs_base: develop

    - root: salt
    - mountpoint: salt://bar
    - base: salt-base
    - name: second_bar_repo
    - root: other/salt
    - mountpoint: salt://other/bar
    - base: salt-base
    - root: salt/states
    - user: joe
    - password: mysupersecretpassword
    - insecure_auth: True


There are two important distinctions which should be noted for per-remote configuration:

  1. The URL of a remote which has per-remote configuration must be suffixed with a colon.
  2. Per-remote configuration parameters are named like the global versions, with the gitfs_ removed from the beginning. The exception being the name parameter which is only available to per-remote configurations.

In the example configuration above, the following is true:

  1. The first and fourth gitfs remotes will use the develop branch/tag as the base environment, while the second and third will use the salt-base branch/tag as the base environment.
  2. The first remote will serve all files in the repository. The second remote will only serve files from the salt directory (and its subdirectories). The third remote will only server files from the other/salt directory (and its subdirectories), while the fourth remote will only serve files from the salt/states directory (and its subdirectories).
  3. The first and fourth remotes will have files located under the root of the Salt fileserver namespace (salt://). The files from the second remote will be located under salt://bar, while the files from the third remote will be located under salt://other/bar.
  4. The second and third remotes reference the same repository and unique names need to be declared for duplicate gitfs remotes.
  5. The fourth remote overrides the default behavior of not authenticating to insecure (non-HTTPS) remotes.

Per-Saltenv Configuration Parameters

New in version 2016.11.0.

For more granular control, Salt allows the following three things to be overridden for individual saltenvs within a given repo:

  • The mountpoint
  • The root
  • The branch/tag to be used for a given saltenv

Here is an example:

gitfs_root: salt

  - dev:
    - mountpoint: salt://gitfs-dev
    - ref: develop

    - saltenv:
      - staging:
        - ref: qa
        - mountpoint: salt://bar-staging
      - dev:
        - ref: development
    - saltenv:
      - staging:
        - mountpoint: salt://baz-staging

Given the above configuration, the following is true:

  1. For all gitfs remotes, files for the dev saltenv will be located under salt://gitfs-dev.
  2. For the dev saltenv, files from the first remote will be sourced from the development branch, while files from the second remote will be sourced from the develop branch.
  3. For the staging saltenv, files from the first remote will be located under salt://bar-staging, while files from the second remote will be located under salt://baz-staging.
  4. For all gitfs remotes, and in all saltenvs, files will be served from the salt directory (and its subdirectories).

Configuration Order of Precedence

The order of precedence for gitfs configuration is as follows (each level overrides all levels below it):

  1. Per-saltenv configuration (defined under a per-remote saltenv param)

        - saltenv:
          - dev:
            - mountpoint: salt://bar
  2. Global per-saltenv configuration (defined in gitfs_saltenv)

      - saltenv:
        - dev:
          - mountpoint: salt://bar
  3. Per-remote configuration parameter

        - mountpoint: salt://bar
  4. Global configuration parameter

    gitfs_mountpoint: salt://bar

Serving from a Subdirectory

The gitfs_root parameter allows files to be served from a subdirectory within the repository. This allows for only part of a repository to be exposed to the Salt fileserver.

Assume the below layout:


The below configuration would serve only the files under foo/baz, ignoring the other files in the repository:

  - git://

gitfs_root: foo/baz

The root can also be configured on a per-remote basis.


New in version 2014.7.0.

The gitfs_mountpoint parameter will prepend the specified path to the files served from gitfs. This allows an existing repository to be used, rather than needing to reorganize a repository or design it around the layout of the Salt fileserver.

Before the addition of this feature, if a file being served up via gitfs was deeply nested within the root directory (for example, salt://webapps/foo/files/foo.conf, it would be necessary to ensure that the file was properly located in the remote repository, and that all of the the parent directories were present (for example, the directories webapps/foo/files/ would need to exist at the root of the repository).

The below example would allow for a file foo.conf at the root of the repository to be served up from the Salt fileserver path salt://webapps/foo/files/foo.conf.


gitfs_mountpoint: salt://webapps/foo/files

Mountpoints can also be configured on a per-remote basis.

Using gitfs Alongside Other Backends

Sometimes it may make sense to use multiple backends; for instance, if sls files are stored in git but larger files are stored directly on the master.

The cascading lookup logic used for multiple remotes is also used with multiple backends. If the fileserver_backend option contains multiple backends:

  - roots
  - git

Then the roots backend (the default backend of files in /srv/salt) will be searched first for the requested file; then, if it is not found on the master, each configured git remote will be searched.

Branches, Environments, and Top Files

When using the gitfs backend, branches, and tags will be mapped to environments using the branch/tag name as an identifier.

There is one exception to this rule: the master branch is implicitly mapped to the base environment.

So, for a typical base, qa, dev setup, the following branches could be used:


top.sls files from different branches will be merged into one at runtime. Since this can lead to overly complex configurations, the recommended setup is to have a separate repository, containing only the top.sls file with just one single master branch.

To map a branch other than master as the base environment, use the gitfs_base parameter.

gitfs_base: salt-base

The base can also be configured on a per-remote basis.

Environment Whitelist/Blacklist

New in version 2014.7.0.

The gitfs_env_whitelist and gitfs_env_blacklist parameters allow for greater control over which branches/tags are exposed as fileserver environments. Exact matches, globs, and regular expressions are supported, and are evaluated in that order. If using a regular expression, ^ and $ must be omitted, and the expression must match the entire branch/tag.

  - base
  - v1.*
  - 'mybranch\d+'


v1.*, in this example, will match as both a glob and a regular expression (though it will have been matched as a glob, since globs are evaluated before regular expressions).

The behavior of the blacklist/whitelist will differ depending on which combination of the two options is used:

  • If only gitfs_env_whitelist is used, then only branches/tags which match the whitelist will be available as environments
  • If only gitfs_env_blacklist is used, then the branches/tags which match the blacklist will not be available as environments
  • If both are used, then the branches/tags which match the whitelist, but do not match the blacklist, will be available as environments.



New in version 2014.7.0.

Both HTTPS and SSH authentication are supported as of version 0.20.3, which is the earliest version of pygit2 supported by Salt for gitfs.


The examples below make use of per-remote configuration parameters, a feature new to Salt 2014.7.0. More information on these can be found here.


For HTTPS repositories which require authentication, the username and password can be provided like so:

  - https://domain.tld/myrepo.git:
    - user: git
    - password: mypassword

If the repository is served over HTTP instead of HTTPS, then Salt will by default refuse to authenticate to it. This behavior can be overridden by adding an insecure_auth parameter:

  - http://domain.tld/insecure_repo.git:
    - user: git
    - password: mypassword
    - insecure_auth: True


SSH repositories can be configured using the ssh:// protocol designation, or using scp-like syntax. So, the following two configurations are equivalent:

  • ssh://

Both gitfs_pubkey and gitfs_privkey (or their per-remote counterparts) must be configured in order to authenticate to SSH-based repos. If the private key is protected with a passphrase, it can be configured using gitfs_passphrase (or simply passphrase if being configured per-remote). For example:

    - pubkey: /root/.ssh/
    - privkey: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
    - passphrase: myawesomepassphrase

Finally, the SSH host key must be added to the known_hosts file.


With GitPython, only passphrase-less SSH public key authentication is supported. The auth parameters (pubkey, privkey, etc.) shown in the pygit2 authentication examples above do not work with GitPython.

  - ssh://

Since GitPython wraps the git CLI, the private key must be located in ~/.ssh/id_rsa for the user under which the Master is running, and should have permissions of 0600. Also, in the absence of a user in the repo URL, GitPython will (just as SSH does) attempt to login as the current user (in other words, the user under which the Master is running, usually root).

If a key needs to be used, then ~/.ssh/config can be configured to use the desired key. Information on how to do this can be found by viewing the manpage for ssh_config. Here's an example entry which can be added to the ~/.ssh/config to use an alternate key for gitfs:

    IdentityFile /root/.ssh/id_rsa_gitfs

The Host parameter should be a hostname (or hostname glob) that matches the domain name of the git repository.

It is also necessary to add the SSH host key to the known_hosts file. The exception to this would be if strict host key checking is disabled, which can be done by adding StrictHostKeyChecking no to the entry in ~/.ssh/config

    IdentityFile /root/.ssh/id_rsa_gitfs
    StrictHostKeyChecking no

However, this is generally regarded as insecure, and is not recommended.

Adding the SSH Host Key to the known_hosts File

To use SSH authentication, it is necessary to have the remote repository's SSH host key in the ~/.ssh/known_hosts file. If the master is also a minion, this can be done using the ssh.set_known_host function:

# salt mymaster ssh.set_known_host user=root

If not, then the easiest way to add the key is to su to the user (usually root) under which the salt-master runs and attempt to login to the server via SSH:

$ su -
# ssh
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 16:27:ac:a5:76:28:2d:36:63:1b:56:4d:eb:df:a6:48.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Warning: Permanently added ',' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
Permission denied (publickey).

It doesn't matter if the login was successful, as answering yes will write the fingerprint to the known_hosts file.

Verifying the Fingerprint

To verify that the correct fingerprint was added, it is a good idea to look it up. One way to do this is to use nmap:

$ nmap -p 22 --script ssh-hostkey

Starting Nmap 5.51 ( ) at 2014-08-18 17:47 CDT
Nmap scan report for (
Host is up (0.17s latency).
Not shown: 996 filtered ports
22/tcp   open  ssh
| ssh-hostkey: 1024 ad:1c:08:a4:40:e3:6f:9c:f5:66:26:5d:4b:33:5d:8c (DSA)
|_2048 16:27:ac:a5:76:28:2d:36:63:1b:56:4d:eb:df:a6:48 (RSA)
80/tcp   open  http
443/tcp  open  https
9418/tcp open  git

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 28.78 seconds

Another way is to check one's own known_hosts file, using this one-liner:

$ ssh-keygen -l -f /dev/stdin <<<`ssh-keyscan 2>/dev/null` | awk '{print $2}'


AWS tracks usage of nmap and may flag it as abuse. On AWS hosts, the ssh-keygen method is recommended for host key verification.


As of OpenSSH 6.8 the SSH fingerprint is now shown as a base64-encoded SHA256 checksum of the host key. So, instead of the fingerprint looking like 16:27:ac:a5:76:28:2d:36:63:1b:56:4d:eb:df:a6:48, it would look like SHA256:nThbg6kXUpJWGl7E1IGOCspRomTxdCARLviKw6E5SY8.

Refreshing gitfs Upon Push

By default, Salt updates the remote fileserver backends every 60 seconds. However, if it is desirable to refresh quicker than that, the Reactor System can be used to signal the master to update the fileserver on each push, provided that the git server is also a Salt minion. There are three steps to this process:

  1. On the master, create a file /srv/reactor/update_fileserver.sls, with the following contents:

  2. Add the following reactor configuration to the master config file:

      - 'salt/fileserver/gitfs/update':
        - /srv/reactor/update_fileserver.sls
  3. On the git server, add a post-receive hook

    1. If the user executing git push is the same as the minion user, use the following hook:
    #!/usr/bin/env sh
    salt-call event.fire_master update salt/fileserver/gitfs/update
    1. To enable other git users to run the hook after a push, use sudo in the hook script:
    #!/usr/bin/env sh
    sudo -u root salt-call event.fire_master update salt/fileserver/gitfs/update
  4. If using sudo in the git hook (above), the policy must be changed to permit all users to fire the event. Add the following policy to the sudoers file on the git server.

    Cmnd_Alias SALT_GIT_HOOK = /bin/salt-call event.fire_master update salt/fileserver/gitfs/update
    Defaults!SALT_GIT_HOOK !requiretty

The update argument right after event.fire_master in this example can really be anything, as it represents the data being passed in the event, and the passed data is ignored by this reactor.

Similarly, the tag name salt/fileserver/gitfs/update can be replaced by anything, so long as the usage is consistent.

The root user name in the hook script and sudo policy should be changed to match the user under which the minion is running.

Using Git as an External Pillar Source

The git external pillar (a.k.a. git_pillar) has been rewritten for the 2015.8.0 release. This rewrite brings with it pygit2 support (allowing for access to authenticated repositories), as well as more granular support for per-remote configuration.

To make use of the new features, changes to the git ext_pillar configuration must be made. The new configuration schema is detailed here.

For Salt releases before 2015.8.0, click here for documentation.

Why aren't my custom modules/states/etc. syncing to my Minions?

In versions 0.16.3 and older, when using the git fileserver backend, certain versions of GitPython may generate errors when fetching, which Salt fails to catch. While not fatal to the fetch process, these interrupt the fileserver update that takes place before custom types are synced, and thus interrupt the sync itself. Try disabling the git fileserver backend in the master config, restarting the master, and attempting the sync again.

This issue is worked around in Salt 0.16.4 and newer.